Kevin Pearce was an Olympic-bound snowboarder with his eye on the gold–a dream of his since childhood. Tragically, while training for the 2010 games, that dream was dashed when he had a near-death fall and suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Within seconds, snowboarding vanished as a career and even as a passionate hobby. But the story doesn’t end here. Kevin and his brother, Adam, eventually would join forces to create Love Your Brain, a non-profit organization which, amongst many other offerings, brings Yoga to TBI sufferers and their caregivers.
While watching a documentary on Kevin’s life, I was particularly moved by a moment of raw honesty. When asked what the most difficult aspect of his journey was, he confessed that it was learning to live with his new identity. Basically, on a Monday he was Kevin, the Olympic-caliber snowboarder, and on Tuesday, he awoke from a coma, a stranger to himself, as Kevin, the guy with the TBI. Understandably, he plunged into an unshakable depression.
Yoga has a lot to say about Identity and Attachment. Most traditions concur that one of the most common human tendencies is to cling to our surface identity–I am a boy, I am a girl, I am a teacher, I have blond hair, I am a night owl, I am gay–and we define ourselves purely and solely as such.
Now, the tantric tradition will say this is all very real and true and perfectly fine. It’s not an illusion or a problem.
BUT THERE IS ALSO SO MUCH MORE!
My meditation teacher, Dr. Paul Mueller Ortega, would often refer to the Ego as “The Identity Assemblage Point,” meaning, that point on the spectrum of Consciousness where we assemble our sense of self/Self. He writes:
In Consciousness, at the superficial surface of life, there is to some degree a crude, locked-in-place, a condition of bondage. It is that limited reality of our own individual mind, the narrow perspective on life– that we are not rooted in the vastness of being –that must be transformed. That transformation has to happen through extraordinary spiritual practice.
Well, that process is called Yoga. Meditation. Ayurveda. Selfless Service (Seva). But primarily, it’s meditation. Through systematic, daily, progressive, cumulative practice, our awareness goes deep inside ourselves. And there are no shortcuts.
Every day we are faced with challenges and assaults on our ego. For Kevin, it was a tragic accident. More often it’s a subtle moment when you are consumed with self-doubt or feeling unloved. This is where your cumulative spiritual practice will rise up to meet you.
Because even when the surface mind doesn’t feel good about us, in our depths, we have access to a simultaneous place of divine sweetness that reminds us what we are in a challenging moment.
Yes, you are a body. You are a personality. There may be flaws. And, yes, there may be suffering. And, yes yes yes to all of our humanity.
Yet at the core of that humanity, there is a golden temple of radiating perfection. We want to be that. We want to sit there, to be charged with that energy, to rise from that place of action, expression, service, and practice.
Recently I had the great privilege of teaching a benefit class on Yogaglo for Love Your Brain. It’s an inspiring, one-hour asana class with mantra, meditation, and live music by sublime guitarist Kevin Paris.
You can preview or take this class by clicking below. You can even try a 15-day free trial if you are interested in subscribing to the Glo. It’s a phenomenal resource with thousands of classes and dozens of outstanding teachers.
No matter where your Identity Assemblage Point lies on your heart’s Google Map, you’re in the right place.